In her two short years as administrator at the General Services Administration, Lurita Doan faced many allegations of poor judgment, if not outright ethics violations. Yet those problems, were almost beside the point when her job was on the line.
The most publicized incidents were only symptoms of larger problems that insiders say ended with Bush administration officials forcing her to resign. In the end, Doan undid Doan, they say, by stirring up more trouble than she was worth to the administration.
But GSA, White House and congressional experts, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Doan suffered from a fatal combination of political naiveté, almost unbridled passion for GSA and lack of experience running a large organization.
Those flaws surfaced most recently when Doan got into a tiff with the Bush administration over GSA’s involvement in border issues. GSA owns and maintains federal buildings along the border. Doan, who had made border issues a priority in recent months, had sought — despite administration protests — to give GSA a larger role in those issues. White House officials apparently decided that enough was enough.
But her problems were most apparent in her long-running, quixotic and public battle with GSA’s inspector general, Brian Miller. The problems started soon after she became GSA administrator, when she tried to reduce the the IG office’s budget as part of an agencywide cost-cutting initiative.
“My best guess is that I was asked to resign because, specifically, I refused to back down on my support for the four whistleblowers at GSA,” Doan said in a May 2 interview on Federal News Radio. The whistleblowers have filed allegations with the Integrity Committee of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency contending that Miller has mismanaged GSA’s IG office.
White House and congressional officials largely agreed with Doan’s assessment. Specifically, they pointed to a letter she sent to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) calling for a full investigation of the whistleblower allegations. Doan’s decision to send the letter to Grassley without input from GSA officials reflected both her naiveté and passion, insiders say.
Shortly after she lost her job, Doan was ready to return to the theme during her Federal News Radio interview. “Even though it’s been in the media, and even though the GSA IG, Brian Miller, has implied that he was cleared of the allegations, that is just not true,” she said. “I think that the GSA IG’s behavior is unethical, unfair and possibly corrupt. And I was not going to tolerate anyone that contributed to a hostile work environment for our GSA employees.”
Matthew Weigelt is a former FCW senior writer who covered acquisition and procurement.